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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Why Itís Not Okay for Mel Gibson to Use the N-Word

By July 5, 2010

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When gossip website Radaronline.com reported that Mel Gibson's ex Oksana Grigorieva had recorded him using the N-word during a vicious rant, much of the public reacted with shock. Readers left hundreds of comments on Radar and other websites that reported the scandal. But some individuals chose to defend Gibson by arguing that blacks speak the same way as the actor, and if blacks can use the racial epithet, why shouldn't he be able to?

This line of reasoning also emerged when radio host Don Imus referred to a mostly black women's basketball team as "nappy-headed h_s." Some people argued that because rappers make similar remarks about black women, Imus should not have been criticized. It's as if these individuals have never heard the aphorism about two wrongs not making a right. The fact that some minorities choose to speak in racially abusive ways doesn't give whites a pass to do so as well. Furthermore, many blacks, such as Oprah Winfrey, staunchly oppose use of the N-word. And those blacks who do, such as rapper Jay-Z, don't use the word in the manner that Gibson reportedly did. It's one thing to use the word as a way to greet someone considered to be a homie or a friend, such as, "What's up, my n___a." It's quite another to use the word as a way to dehumanize a group of people, which is how Radar Online reports that Gibson did.

Apparently, the actor-director used the word because he disapproved of his then girlfriend's outfit. †Gibson allegedly told Grigorieva, ""You look like a f___ing pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n___ers, it will be your fault."

In the first half of the statement, blacks are likened to animals via the word "pack." In the second half of the statement, the stereotype that blacks are rapists is invoked. And, of course, the entire statement is misogynistic, as it suggests that women who dress a certain way invite others to rape them. In this case, the others are beast-like black men.

Taking the statement as a whole, can anyone argue that this is the way blacks who say the N-word generally use it in conversation? Often such blacks defend their use of the term by arguing that they have reclaimed it, turned it from a negative into a positive. This is certainly not the way the slur was used in the statement attributed to Gibson. The remark was full of hate, serving to animalize blacks and cloak them in stereotype.

I don't agree with blacks who say the N-word, precisely because it's very tricky to reclaim a word with so much baggage. However, to suggest that blacks' use of the word parallels Gibson's alleged use of it in any way is ridiculous.


Comments

July 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm
(1) Osay says:

We may as well accept the fact that “most of em do”, we have allowed it for so long that I’m never surprised whose mouth it comes from. I was in Charleston SC this past week and the way they looked at me convinced me that most of them just emerged from the caves. Their thinking is still the same as Neanderthals; the racists are grossly ignorant and are still living in the dark ages.

July 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm
(2) asar says:

spot-on, young lady! the absence of comments speaks VOLUMES to how susinctly your paragraphs effectively nullified virtually any disillusioned (if not pathtic) attempt -by anyone NOT of african decent- to intellectualize, or more laughably, “massage in” cultural dynamics (the imus model is just as good as any) to rationalize/justify one’s decision to sensationalize (if not celebrate) one’s ignorance through the use of this particular word.

let’s simply attribute this the eloquence of the spoken language as it relates to the now infamous *tee-hee* “n” word…

when uttered by anyone NOT of african decent, it is incumbent that the remark remains rightfully and steadfastly grounded in the sick and ignorant orientation that the word’s use was meant for. the spirit of its pure filth is manifest, and quite commendable, for those comfortable with such a pathetic disposition i’m sure.

as vile as the word is, yes, it remains in use by some individuals of african decent (god bless america, yes?). so any attempt to throw a pity party should be viewed as most inapopriate. there’s been plenty of mis-justice, racism and bigotry to go around. no one knows this better than americans of african decent. the plausible exception being -nevermind…

that being said, the premise is simple. when uttered from the mouth of anyone NOT of african decent, any and all of its filthy implications are applicable.

use of the “n” word *chuckle* amongst people of african decent is wonderfully, graciously, un-apologetically, eloquently, if not simply OUTSIDE OF EVERYONE ELSE’S UNDERSTANDING. much to the same degree that the physical experience of child birth child-birth exceeds that of any male’s intimate understanding on the subject. truly an exercise in futility to say the least.

i can’t help but laugh about how delicate everyone is with the “n” word now. anyone that spent more than two days in america can tell you that “n” bombs are being dropped every day through looks & gestures. nothing new. nothing’s changed. why not drop just let it roll off your lounge, dude? we’re used to it -trust me!

“bro” is the new “n” word; it has a warm & heartfelt ring to it, a great spring-time fresh scent, but equally creepy…

while such a gesture would be beneath the writer of this article, (the divine grace of nubian queens will never cease to humble
and inspire me) but, 3 snaps in a “z” formation would be most applicable here.

July 6, 2010 at 10:05 am
(3) Sharon says:

Personally, I feel that *no* one should ever use the n-word. If only out of deference to the racial history that is associated with the use of the word. In the recent past, when that word was used, it was meant to denigrate, to undermine African-American’s worth as people, to show distain, to illustrate spite for a person, or to hurt us.

We as African-Americans cannot keep getting angry at a Mel Gibson or Michael whatever his last name is that was on Seinfeld, when they use this word when drunk. Then, turn around and argue that it is only when *we* use it, that the n-word’s definition or connotation is different and therefore, acceptable.

Using this word is never acceptable under any circumstances. To continue to support use of the n-word reveals that the supporters, even if they are now wealthy, came from a certain socio-economic class. And, if you note who it is that still argues that it is “acceptable” to use the n-word or call their fellow African-Americans the n-word, many of these “supporters” have come from a certain socio-economic background. Have we ever hear a Vernon Jordan or a Lawrence Otis Graham refer to themselves or their friends as “my n—-s”? Never. And, you never will.

July 6, 2010 at 12:47 pm
(4) Raluca says:

I kind of tend to believe that a negative word can be turned into a positive one- I wouldn’t say though that expression such as “yo my n!%%a actually do that…
But for example if you make an anti-discrimination poster, with the picture of an African-American fireman and the text: “This is the n!%%3r that saved your life”, I think in that case you are using a shocking word for a good cause and you are turning it from negative into positive. Sometimes you do need to shock people in order to get their attention.

July 6, 2010 at 6:09 pm
(5) Veronica says:

To Sharon: I’m with you on that one. I’ve never really understood how blacks could shamelessly call each other a name that has been used to insult them for hundreds of years. When they call each other that, then they’re giving others permission to call them that, too. It would be the same as if we Latinos called each other “wetback” or any other of the other names that are applied us. If it’s not okay for whites to call blacks the n-word, then why is it okay for blacks to call EACH OTHER that? It isn’t.

July 10, 2010 at 5:06 pm
(6) Da Man says:

Just because someone uses a racial slur, doesn’t mean they hate and/or are racist against every member of that race. For example “Gosh, the south is so full of white trash rednecks!” Yes, that’s derogatory and references race; but you can’t draw from that remark that they must be an across the board racist against whites, can you? Same thing here. Guess what: there are trashy, disgusting ghetto blacks out there (as there are members of every race) who’s behavior DOES resemble that of animals. A single derogatory remark referencing that, in the heat of an argument within in the larger context of a child custody battle does not a racist make.

And yet that’s what the speech police are out there doing: “Oh wow! Mel said the n word in the midst of a private argument… he’s an out of control racist!”

It makes you guys look like out of control, orwellian, speech police witchhunters, who in a mccarthyistic type fervor are eager to stamp people with the “racist” scarlett letter, and ban him from society because he made angry, provocative remarks during private argument. WHo hasn’t done that? Lay off of him. Gibson has never made any action to harm a black person, nor gone out and made public comments disparaging them.

July 12, 2010 at 1:31 pm
(7) Rick Doten says:

It is a bit disturbing reading comments from people who think that someone is not racist just because they use a racial slur, and it is also disturbing that white people think it is ok to use the N word if they hear a black person using it, well first we in the Black community need to stop using the word and that would give a clue to anyone else that it is not cool to use that word in any context. America needs to grow up and start treating all people the same and stop putting time into idiots like Mel Gibson, I applaud the William Morris Agency for dropping him, he is a disgrace.

July 13, 2010 at 2:40 am
(8) Richard says:

I just don’t think that some words can ever be “reclaimed”. You never hear Chinese people call each other ch__ks; you certainly don’t hear women refer to each other as c__nts. Non-Africans just can’t see the intention behind “reclamation”, or worse, the racists will simply use that as an excuse.

July 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm
(9) chico D. says:

I think the media has over coddled the blacks in the US and the rest of the world for that matter, to the point where their egos have over inflated and the chip on their shoulders got bigger. A black in the US can say anything he or she wants about whites no matter how offensive, and not even receive as much as even a slap on the wrist
but if the shoe is on the other foot…look out…Jackasses.

July 21, 2010 at 7:58 am
(10) Afreak says:

Wow, this is just amazing garbage. The column and the comments by Azar.

I feel sorry for people who believe this crap, they spend time justifying the acceptable use of a word depending upon ones race then claim to be championing equality in the same breath.

100 years from now if people look back at these types of conversations they will be amazed how primitive we were.

Race Blog, so easy a Caveman could do it!

August 4, 2010 at 6:26 pm
(11) Stephen says:

It really is not ok for anyone of any “color,” to use that word.

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